CONEJO VALLEY

Newbury Park's Lacayo gets Lifetime Achievement Award

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Hank Lacayo, center, speaks with Eric Harrison, President and CEO of United Way more

Awards and banquets are nothing new for Hank Lacayo. He's been feted in Washington, D.C., for his work in presidential administrations and in Detroit for his efforts on behalf of autoworkers.

On Thursday night, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Way of Ventura County, and this one was special.

"This is kind of the frosting on the cake," Lacayo said a moment after accepting the award during a banquet at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. "This is home, so it's really rewarding. It puts more fuel in my tank, to keep going."

At 85, Lacayo seems to have plenty left in the tank. He has recovered from last year's throat cancer surgery, and he's back to never missing a meeting of the United Way, where he sits on the board and is also a donor and volunteer.

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U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, left, and Hank Lacayo speak during a VIP meet and more

"He's a very active board member," said Eric Harrison, the president and CEO of the United Way of Ventura County. "Every month for our meeting I pick him up at home in Newbury Park. He's always wearing his Sunday best. … His commitment to us has been phenomenal."

Lacayo's career in public life goes back to the 1950s, when he was president of the United Auto Workers at North American Aviation in Los Angeles. In the 1970s he went to Detroit to take an executive position in the UAW, and he's been a labor adviser to Democratic presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

After he retired from the UAW in 1986, Lacayo turned to politics and public service.

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Hank Lacayo, left, shakes hands with Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber during a VIP more

"He is a master of political strategy," said Richard Rush, the recently retired president of CSU Channel Islands who presented Lacayo with the award on Thursday. "He learned it at the UAW, and he has carried it into his personal life here in Ventura County. Whenever someone says, 'I need to get something done,' the first person to call is Hank Lacayo."

Lacayo holds an honory doctorate from CSUCI, and his name graces the school's Henry L. "Hank" Lacayo Institute for Workforce & Community Studies. He remains a mover in Ventura County politics. At his table on Thursday was U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, who said she met Lacayo when she first ran for the state legislature, in 2006.

"When I think of Ventura County, I think of Hank Lacayo, and when I think of our country, I think of Hank Lacayo," Brownley said.

Jessie Hawkins, the president of the United Way board last year, said Lacayo "leads by example."

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People gather during a meet and greet before the start of the United Way of Ventura County's 2016 Community Partnership Spirit Awards held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

"It's amazing how much he's still doing," said Hawkins, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in Oxnard. "If I'm doing anything close to that at 85, I'll be very happy."

Lacayo's Lifetime Achievement Award was just the second one the United Way has given in its 12 years of annual awards. Rush received the first one, at least year's ceremony.

On Thursday, the United Way also presented three other awards: the Milton M. Teague Award for volunteerism, to Hawkins, the chairman of the United Way board; the Douglas Shively Award for community impact to Jennifer Harkey, a county program analyst in the Human Services Agency; and the Roy Pinkerton Award for corporate citizenship, to Wells Fargo.

The United Way is a funding source for other nonprofits. It generates more than $2 million a year for causes including 2-1-1, the social services hotline; a program to get dental care to low-income children; and emergency food and shelter for the poor and homeless.